Despite investing billions into training employees, particularly management training and development, why is it that the skills deficit in line management is still growing? Why is that this large expenses in management development do not show the expected results when it comes to management abilities?

Despite nearly a hundred years of studying management, the emphasis continues to be mostly on concept development – looking for the qualities of the ‘right’ leader – and not on how the concept can be put in practice which is, to put it simply, how to turn people into ‘right’ leaders.

The implicit and existing perception is that by establishing the ‘right’ theory, it can result in having better leaders and supervisors through the intervention of learning and development. This perception is contradictory to what we all know from literature on learning and the sustainability of learning. We could also observe this perception reflected in the practices of some companies. Several management training programs depend on selecting a training provider, the best program design, and facilitating the ‘training event’. This method does not consider the fact that, in order to change long term behaviour, organizational support is necessary to push and embrace change.

The research by Rachel Lewis, Emma Donaldson-Feilder and associates provided a unifying model to assist professionals and companies in knowing what they have to do to create an efficient management development program, to apply management skills at work and to set the framework for sustainable change of behaviour. This study was published and is available as a free download to help companies to effectively develop managers.

Things to Remember in Management Development Programs

1. Don’t run a one-off management program

Management development is a long-term process (at least 3 months) utilizing various methods like workshops, coaching and feedback. Take note that it’s not about having more, but about the efficiency of the elements of the program in accomplishing the objectives or promoting a specific proficiency or conduct.

Should you operate a program that employs both workshops and coaching, but the content is just the same, you will only waste your money.

2. Let your program add something substantial.

Any program will fail if delivered in isolation. To ensure you increase the success of your development program, it must be linked to present organizational projects and strategies, to organizational beliefs, to other development courses, to performance management programs and selection methods.

Consider ways to create a strong network between your program and other initiatives of your company. The more networks it has, which embed in the organizational life of the manager, the more likely it will have a great impact on the manager.

3. Don’t just think about the content, the PROCESS is more important

Many companies focus a lot of time on selecting the training provider and training course – which simply highlights the intervention part of the program. There are three important stages of the development program:

• The pre-stage is where you add the program in the company, create goals and ensure buy-in and engagement.

• The intervention stage is where you implement the development activities.

• The post-stage is where you give the managers opportunities to apply their skills, they give feedback and get further support to continue using and developing the skills.

4. Don’t try to implement a program without buy-in

Ensuring all stakeholders are on-board and supportive of the program is essential to continued success in maintaining the desired change in the managers. The major stakeholders you’ll need support from are:

• Senior managers. They should not just support the program, they should also lead by example and display the behaviours you would like your leaders to have.

• The managers themselves. Make sure that the managers continue to feel confident of their skills and consider this program as a good opportunity for further development. Don’t force them to attend; it’s not right to put pressure on them.

• Direct reports. If direct reports aren’t ready to be handled by their supervisor, the manager’s capabilities are irrelevant. Consequently, include direct reports in the manager’s development and the general procedure to ensure reciprocity of skills development.

5. When the company doesn’t reflect the aims of the program, don’t bother

If you develop managers to become merely participative people managers, but your company gives rewards and acknowledgement to work output, or is genuine and transparent in your very hierarchical company, such development is unsustainable and is only a waste of time.

Managers represent the company’s culture. The very best company culture in which management abilities can succeed and develop is where there’s open communication across all levels of the company and where value and reputation of employees are obvious.

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